Caine’s youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - FILM GRANT FELLER

Gen­eral re­lease

THIS IS a film about loss — of tal­ent, beauty, love, dig­nity, de­sire and com­pan­ion­ship. But don’t let that put you off. For Youth is also ut­terly riv­et­ing, a Fellini-es­que homage set in an Alpine ho­tel-spa where a youth­ful spring has sprung and the hills — lit­er­ally (be­lieve me!) — come alive to the sound of mu­sic.

Michael Caine and Har­vey Kei­tel play two old friends ap­proach­ing 80 and lament­ing their lost youth. Film di­rec­tor Kei­tel is on a quest to re­dis­cover his past through mak­ing one last ‘‘legacy’’ pic­ture, while com­poser Caine seems to be sup­press­ing his mem­o­ries.

The for­mer be­lieves that ‘‘emo­tions are all we have’’; his melan­cholic com­pan­ion can­not bear to show them. And when a Buckingham Palace courtier pleads with Caine to con­duct his most fa­mous com­po­si­tion in re­turn for a knight­hood, he is forced to con­front that emo­tional block­age.

Added to this mix are Caine’s daugh­ter— a won­der­ful per­for­mance from Rachel Weisz — a Johnny Depp-like film icon played by Paul Dano (even bet­ter here than he is in the BBC’s War and Peace) and an ex­tra­or­di­nary cameo from Jane Fonda. And, in be­tween, we get Miss Uni­verse, Paloma Faith and Diego Maradona. Re­ally.

The ho­tel be­comes an oth­er­worldly, some­times prison-like, re­treat where guests are se­duced into be­liev­ing their youth can be re­stored if only for a fleet­ing mo­ment. Maradona can dis­play his God-given tal­ents, Fonda can act ev­ery­one off the screen, Kei­tel can en­counter his past cin­e­matic glo­ries, and Caine can rekin­dle his pas­sion.

Inevitably, in a film about try­ing not to grow old, sex is ev­ery­where, even down to the phal­lic-shaped tow­els that ap­pear in ev­ery room. And yet Ital­ian di­rec­tor Paolo Sor­rentino is never coarse.

Quite the op­po­site; his se­cond English-lan­guage film is fre­quently witty and rav­ish­ing to look at, full of im­mac­u­lately-de­tailed scenes that linger long in the mem­ory, and with per­for­mances that never fal­ter, es­pe­cially Caine’s lan­guid, haunted mae­stro. Just as im­pres­sive is the gen­uinely mov­ing score by David Lang.

This is an elo­quent, ec­cen­tric med­i­ta­tion on what age­ing feels like — for old peo­ple who refuse to con­front the in­evitable and younger ones who don’t re­alise how lit­tle time they have.

Good con­duct: Michael Caine is rhap­sodic

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